Dow sets all-time high
Blue-chip indicator manages highest close ever, taking out a 6-1/2-year-old record; falling oil is the catalyst.
By Alexandra Twin, senior writer

NEW YORK ( -- The Dow Jones industrial average closed at its highest level ever Tuesday, and also made a new trading high, knocking out records from more than 6-1/2 years ago, thanks to a nearly 4 percent slide in oil prices.

The Dow industrials (up 53.39 to 11,723.74, Charts) added nearly 0.5 percent, according to early tallies, and closed at 11,727.34, taking out the record close of 11,722.98 hit on Jan. 14, 2000. The Dow also notched a record trading high of 11,758.95, knocking out its previous record of 11,750.28, also hit on Jan. 14, 2000.


The S&P 500 (up 2.97 to 1,334.29, Charts) index added 0.2 percent Tuesday. The broad index topped out at a 5-1/2 year high last Thursday and has struggled since then.

The Nasdaq composite (up 6.03 to 2,243.63, Charts) added 0.3 percent.

Oil and gold prices slumped; Treasury prices dipped, raising the corresponding yields.

Here's a look at what was moving near the close.

Oil slumps, stocks rally

U.S. light crude oil for November delivery fell $2.35 to settle at $58.68 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a decline of nearly 4 percent.

"The catalyst today is falling oil prices," said Peter Cardillo, chief market analyst at S.W. Bach & Co. "Oil under $60 a barrel today is giving the Dow ammunition to make another try for those record highs."

After a shaky start, stocks began to take off just before midday in response to the decline in oil prices. Investors are likely betting that lower energy prices will mean lower inflationary pressures, which in turn makes it more likely that the economy will slowdown, but not head into a recession, as has been feared.

"The question is how much we are going to slowdown," said John Davidson, president and CEO at PartnerRe Asset Management.

He said that how stocks perform over the next quarter and beyond will be determined by the extent of the slowdown as well as what kind of earnings outlooks companies give in the next few weeks.

Here's what was moving stocks near the close.

Road to the record

The Dow hit its previous all-time high in January 2000 near the end of the late 1990's Internet boom. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 peaked around two months later.

But the stock market began slipping soon after, and within two months, the Dow had given back 8 percent. The major gauges recovered most of the losses that April, slipped back and then tried again to recover in August, before giving up altogether and heading lower.

The bursting of the Internet bubble, the recession that ended in 2001 and the events of 9/11 all played a role in a bear market that stretched for 3 years. Stocks bottomed out in October 2002, and have slowly recovered since then, although the Nasdaq remains more than 50 percent below its all-time high.

Last May, the S&P 500 hit a 5-1/2 year high and the Dow closed at its highest point since the 2000 record. But the blue-chip averages were unable to take out the records and stocks slid through the summer. Record high oil prices and worries about another recession paced the selloff.

But stocks turned it around again in August and September of this year thanks to a few key events: oil prices tumbled, the Federal Reserve paused its more than two-year old interest-rate hiking campaign, and investors saw signs that the economy is slowing, but not heading for a recession.

Last week, the major gauges finished out the best third quarter since 1997. The S&P 500 rose just short of 5 percent in the third quarter, while the Dow gained 4.5 percent. The Nasdaq gained 3.8 percent.

What's most interesting, Davidson said, is not that the Dow has broken through a new record, but that it has taken the market this long to get to a point where stocks seem to be fairly valued relative to earnings expectations.

He points out that in January 2000, the Dow and S&P 500 were priced at around 25 times forward-looking earnings and eventually got as high as at least 30 times forward looking earnings. Now, both the Dow industrials and S&P 500 are priced at about 15 times forward-looking earnings.

Tuesday's movers

The fall in oil prices was good news for most sectors of the stock market, with 23 out of 30 Dow issues rising. Gainers included aerospace issues such as Boeing (up $1.79 to $81.76, Charts) and Honeywell (up $0.52 to $41.87, Charts) and bank stocks such as JP Morgan (up $0.88 to $47.75, Charts) and Citigroup (up $0.61 to $50.10, Charts).

However, the plunge in oil prices was bad news for oil stocks, which slumped. Exxon Mobil (down $1.65 to $65.35, Charts) and Valero Energy (down $2.77 to $48.17, Charts) were among the stocks dragging down the Amex Oil (down 38.20 to 1,035.76, Charts) index.

COMEX gold for December delivery fell $22.30 to $581 an ounce.

That sparked a selloff in gold stocks, with the Amex Gold Bugs (down $20.20 to $282.67, Charts) index losing 5.4 percent.

Among other movers, Marvell Technology (down $2.28 to $16.81, Charts) shares plunged 13 percent in active trade after saying late Monday that it will restate financial results going back to its initial public offering in 2000, due to misdated stock options. The chipmaker also warned that third-quarter sales will be down 10 percent from the previous quarter, due to weaker demand from disk-drive makers.

Automakers released their September sales reports throughout the day Tuesday. Among the standouts, General Motors (down $0.08 to $33.42, Charts) reported a larger-than-expected decline of 6.8 percent, while Ford Motor (up $0.07 to $8.20, Charts) reported a 5 percent rise in sales.

Market breadth was mixed. On the New York Stock Exchange, winners beat losers 9 to 7 as 1.47 billion shares changed hands. On the Nasdaq, advancers and decliners were roughly even on volume of 1.76 billion shares.

Treasury prices inched lower. The yield on the 10-year note stood at 4.62 percent, up from around 4.60 percent late Monday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

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